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Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Assess Iowa's Readiness for Medicaid Privitization

Flickr / William Patrick Butler

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is in Iowa this week accessing the state’s readiness to transition the management of Iowa’s Medicaid program into the hands of four private companies on Jan. 1. Critics say the process has been unorganized and rushed, and many Medicaid recipients complain they don’t have enough information to determine which, if any, of the Managed Care Organizations best fits their coverage needs.

The visit by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, is closed to the public. A schedule shows the federal agency meeting with state employees, Managed Care Organizations, or MCOs, and providers groups over the course of four days, ending on Friday.

"Generally speaking CMS tries to find common ground with states, so I would be surprised if CMS were to outright deny the transition to managed care," says Medicaid expert Kelly Whitener of the McCourt Public Policy School at Georgetown University. "I would find it much less surprising if there were a delay or if the state were asked to meet sort of certain standards before the transition were allowed to take place."

Gov. Terry Branstad has been adamant the transition take place on New Year's Day because of the budget the legislature approved last session included $51 million in savings the governor projects the privatization of Medicaid's management will create. 

The state is asking Medicaid recipients to settle on an MCO by December 17, but they can change to a different care organization for any reason within 90 days.  The governor also announced on Monday that providers which have yet to contract with an MCO have until the end of March before they are penalized by not receiving their full Medicaid reimbursement.